One of the most important, but confusing lines in the show was said by Starbuck in the Tomb of Athena when they turned on the 3-D projection of a simulated Earth.
“The scriptures say that when the thirteenth tribe landed on Earth, they looked up into the heavens and they saw their twelve brothers.”
Readers of this blog will know I’ve felt it has been clear since this scene that Earth is the homeworld of mankind, Kobol was a colony of Earth, and that the “13th tribe” story is a cover story designed to hide that fact.
Now this line pretty much proved it. The 12 tribes of Kobol are named after the Earth Zodiac, and more tellingly their flags show the constellations as seen from Earth. The central facet of Kobolian culture is from the Earth sky. I’ve seen tortured logic trying to explain this in the Galactica 1980 “Earth is a colony of Kobol” backstory, where Kobol colonizes Earth, Kobol Falls and Earth recolonizes Kobol and Kobolian culture thus comes from Earth. But it’s tortured logic indeed, and effectively has each planet be a colony of the other.
However, there is something odd about this line from their scripture. Why don’t the characters themselves see the contradiction in it? The myth says they saw the 12 tribes in the Zodiac when they landed. This should make no sense to people who believe that Earth was a vacant planet colonized by a Kobolian tribe. The scripture line should be followed by, “how the hell can that be?”
Among fans who still want there to have been a real 13th tribe (rather than a cover story) a theory is advanced which has some credibility. This theory goes:
- Earth colonizes Kobol, and Earth falls
- Kobol recolonizes Earth
- Both Kobol and Earth fall
- Kobol rises and recolonizes Earth
- Above cycles repeat as much as you like, with Earth being rebuilt, falling and recolonized in endless human/robot wars
The appeal of this plot is it allows you to have the “all this has happened before and will again” theme repeat through many, many cycles. The “basic” plot of Earth has war, colonizes Kobol, Kobol has war, colonizes 12 colonies, 12 colonies have war, head for Earth only has 3 cycles, which may not be enough to develop such a strong pattern as we’ve led to believe exists. So there is a dramatic reason for more cycles.
This makes everything vastly older — tens of thousands of years — and the ruins on Earth have nothing to do with modern Earth. It does give more background to a plot where “this is the time they break the Cycle, as humans and Cylons finally come together,” which is almost surely the plot we’re going to get.
So while I see the attraction of the “lots of cycles” plot, I still think they’ll keep it simple. And having just one extra cycle just so you can have a real 13th tribe makes little dramatic sense. Having the 13th tribe be a cover story is a much more interesting plot, a much more dramatic reveal.
However, even the addition of extra cycles of Earth falling and being recolonized by Kobol, it still doesn’t explain the line in the scripture. If the recolonists knew that Earth was the homeworld, they might have written a line of scripture like that, but only in the context of knowing it was a homecoming, not a hunt for a new home. And if they didn’t know they were returning to the homeworld, they would have said, “How can our flags be in the sky of this new planet?” So either way the scriptures are hiding the truth, deliberately.
Now as to why the characters never question this on screen? Well, that’s a bit of a writing error, but I think it’s perhaps a deliberate one. They don’t want the audience to think about this too much. They want the audience to be surprised when they learn that Earth is the homeworld, while going “Ah, of course it is.” If they talked too much about how the 13th tribe is a cover story, the audience would not be surprised, so they don’t talk about it.
From the Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog